She wore a dress made out of newspaper, got into a “sticky” situation with double-sided tape and earned a spread in the February issue of Marie Claire. Now that Kalyn Hemphill has cat-walked her way to the winner’s circle on Lifetime’s Models of the Runway: Season One, the model/actress/singer is moving her focus from the runway to Broadway.
The triple threat started out performing local theater in her hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas and quickly progressed to larger stages in Houston. There, she took on chorus roles such as Rizzo from Grease, Cinderella, and her personal favorite, a “dancing plate” in the “Be Our Guest” scene of Beauty and the Beast.
“If you had asked me five years ago what my life would be like right now, I would have never guessed I would be on the path that I am on and that I would have won Models of the Runway,” Kalyn said.
In the whirlwind of media attention that followed the show’s finale, the 21-year-old found herself backstage at some of fashion’s most exclusive parties and events. That’s when she developed the idea that would bring her back to her acting roots, and bring backstage passes to the masses. “I attend lots of high-profile, amazing parties in NYC and I thought it would be neat to give viewers a look at what goes on ‘behind the bash,’ highlighting food, fashion, and décor with a video/blog series,” Kalyn said. “I want viewers to feel like their name was on the guest list.”
The new series, Scene Cuisine, explores chic restaurants, stylish parties, and trendy events while bringing the industry’s nightlife to anyone with Internet access. While the project is currently more blog-based, Kalyn is looking to get Scene Cuisine picked up for television in the next few months—which means a lot of interviewing, filming, and editing.
But the Models of the Runway winner wasn’t always on the inside track of New York society. When she moved to New York at just 18 years old, Kalyn admits she had some difficulty adjusting to the city. “I struggled with feelings of loneliness and isolation since I didn’t know a soul. I felt like I was in a sea of people but it was all just passing faces and no one bothered to really get to know each other,” she said. “Now, three years later, I feel completely at home. I’m still adjusting to the bitter cold winter, lack of ‘nature,’ and crowded, noisy subways but it makes me appreciate going back home to Texas.”
After earning her high school diploma a year early, Kalyn dove head first into the modeling industry but continued training in her other interests, such as dance, acting, and singing, saying that she wants to be prepared for any opportunity that may arise. Every week, the Texas native walks across the park from her apartment where she meets her voice coach. Though she has yet to come across a modeling gig that requires her to sing while walking the runway, the two work every week on Kalyn’s classical style and vocal range.
“I feel like my performance experience has truly helped my modeling career because confidence and stage presence are essential to modeling, as well as the ability to morph into whatever character the photographer or designer wants me to be that day,” she said.
In her very first model shoot, when she was in high school, Kalyn appeared as a soccer player in an advertisement for Academy Sports & Outdoors, donning navy shorts, a light blue tank and, of course, a soccer ball—quite a stretch from the designer clothes she sports in current spreads.
“I look back at my first photo shoot with Academy and can’t help but giggle. I was 14 or 15 years old and had no earthly idea what I was doing,” she recalls. “I’d never played soccer before so when I got there, they had me put on these shin guards and I put them on over my socks. I looked ridiculous but I didn’t know any better.”
Now the girl who was once mystified by sports gear hits the gym five to six days a week. “I go to the gym not only because I think it’s important for my line of work but because, well, I like to eat and I still want to be healthy. I don’t want to be one of those models who look grossly skinny. That’s just not me,” she said.
With every photo shoot, play, and hosting event, the hype continues to build around the entertainer’s multifaceted career and as the revolving door of opportunity keeps spinning, Kalyn says she’s ready to return to what she loves most. “The response has been incredible since I won Project Runway/Models of the Runway. I hope to go back to my acting roots in the next few years and to branch out more into film and TV”—and, naturally, to fulfill a childhood dream of being on Broadway.